While Vanderbilt's 2014 baseball team was out winning a national title, the alumni who helped build the program to that point were out chasing their major league dreams. Key members from Tim Corbin's College World Series team of 2011 and the hopefuls of 2012 and 2013 have been establishing themselves in the minors across the country and are preparing to join players like David Price, Pedro Alvarez, and Sonny Gray in the show.
A long list of former fan favorites are jockeying for position on top 100 prospect lists and shuffling closer and closer to a full-time spot in the MLB. Here's a sampling of how Vandy Baseball's alums performed over the past week in the minor leagues.
Mike Yastrzemski played well enough in his second season of A ball to earn an All-Star bid, and that led to a promotion to the Orioles' Advanced A team this June. Yaz validated that promotion with a monster performance on Saturday, hitting for the cycle in a 5-6 showing that led the Frederick Keys over the Lynchburg Hillcats 17-3. The former All-SEC honoree is now batting .321 and has gone a perfect 4-4 in stolen base attempts in 15 games at his new home. He's already more than doubled his professional numbers in hits, home runs, RBI, runs scored, and stolen bases this summer.
Taylor Hill, Vandy's entirely underrated Sunday starter in 2010 and 2011, had been dominant enough for AAA Syracuse to earn a call up to the Nationals bullpen last week. He made just two appearances (4.15 ERA, 1.62 WHIP) before being sent down for more seasoning at the end of last month. Hill was his usual reliable self in his first International League start since June 19th, allowing one run (via home run) in six innings of work against Lehigh Valley. He doesn't have the tools that will make scouts write 2,000 words on his raw talent, but the righty gets results - he's 9-2 with a 1.92 ERA this year.. Expect him to shuttle between Syracuse and D.C. for the rest of the year, likely making the nation's capital his home once rosters are expanded on September 1st.
Tony Kemp had a lot of tools that made him one of the most versatile stars to ever grace Hawkins Field. Power was not one of those - but the diminutive second baseman is changing that in the minors. He's got five dingers this season, including his first at the AA level last week for the Corpus Christi Hooks. TK was absolutely dominant in Class A ball, scoring 79 runs and swiping 28 bags in 72 games before earning a promotion. He hasn't cooled off in his new home yet, batting .350/.438/.550 in 10 games with the Hooks. He's unlikely to earn a MLB callup, but he also plays in the Astros system, so don't rule anything out just yet.
Aaron Westlake showed signs of turning a corner for AA Erie last week. The broad-shouldered first baseman raked in a four-game series against Binghamton, going 5-14 with a home run, double, and two RBI to raise his average to .230 for the year. Westlake has struggled in his fourth professional season but has the strength and bat speed to become a starting caliber first baseman in the big leagues. He'll look to build this momentum into a run to the Tigers' AAA roster.
Yaz's promotion to Frederick has helped spur his once and current teammate Jason Esposito in a nice run at the plate. The former Vandy third baseman has struggled in the minors, but he's in the midst of one of his best stretches since leaving the Commodores in 2011. Espo is batting .417 in the month of July and while his strikeout rate is still dangerously high, he's showing signs of a potential breakout. In three years as a professional he has yet to escape the gravity of Class A baseball. This may be his best chance to earn a promotion and validate the Orioles' confidence in him.